Pressing their luck for the second consecutive night, the Cincinnati Reds made a grand comeback, but were unable to hold it on Saturday night. Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates fought back ferociously to pull out a 6-5 win.
Chalk it up to one of baseball’s bizarre statistics if you will, but for the third time in a week, the Redlegs have come back from four runs down—the first three times they have done it all year. Remove the clubs middle of the order, and suddenly, they find a clutch gene they had been lacking.
With the Reds’ two best players out of the lineup, Andrew McCutchen just served as a reminder as to what MVP’s can do in crucial situations. The reigning MVP, who very well may be on his way to his second consecutive trophy, took the game into his own hands down the stretch.
Before the marathon four-hour contest would get dicey in the late innings, Mike Leake made the game uneasy from the get-go. With the ball not so much as leaving the infield aside from Russell Martin’s sacrifice fly in the first, Pittsburgh jumped ahead early on Leake.
The onslaught of hits would continue the entire evening, as Leake would yield nine base hits to a Pirates bunch that was seemingly not in the mood to simply turn the game over to the bullpen and trust the arms. The fourth inning extenuated how messy things would get for Leake, as he threw away a pickoff attempt at third base allowing a run to score, followed by an infield chopper off the bat of Gregory Polanco evading everybody to put another run on the board.
Leake’s final pitch would be stung by McCutchen, but snared by third baseman Todd Frazier for the final out of the sixth. At the time, it was just another out in a four-run deficit, but it served as a precursor of things to come for McCutchen.
Much in the same way that Tony Watson collapsed on himself in a span of five batters on Friday, Charlie Morton fell victim to the same fate. On virtual cruise control through the front five innings, Morton would start the bottom of the sixth on a four-pitch walk to Zack Cozart. Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey would homer to cut the deficit in half. Before Morton could recover, Billy Hamilton would single, steal second, and then watch as Ramon Santiago drew a walk. Unable to even get a reliever up in time, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had to watch as Todd Frazier clobbered a baseball into the Reds bullpen far beyond the left centerfield fence. In the span of five batters, the Redlegs would jump ahead 5-4.
Not looking to use Aroldis Chapman for the fifth consecutive day, manager Bryan Price made the decision that no matter what, it was to be Jonathan Broxton closing the game. That much was evident by a combination of Logan Ondrusek, Sam LeCure, Manny Parra and Jumbo Diaz getting the six outs necessary to keep Cincinnati ahead as the game entered the ninth.
Having not allowed a home run all season, even with Andrew McCutchen at the plate, the last thing the more than 42,000+ in attendance expected was for the Pirates’ franchise cornerstone to knot the game up at five. One huge crack of the bat later and not even Billy Hamilton on his own bobblehead night would have the ability to bring back McCutchen’s blast that would ultimately send the game to extras.
Squandering opportunities to walk-off in the ninth, the Reds seemed poised to do so in the 10th as new Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri was nowhere near the zone to both Ramon Santiago and Todd Frazier, walking the first two batters of the inning. Clint Hurdle would summon hard-throwing left-hander Justin Wilson out of the ‘pen for Jay Bruce.
To put it kindly, it has been a debacle over at third base for coach Steve Smith. It is difficult to remember a third base coach ever going through so much criticism at this point in a season—in fact, it is a position with the club not many fans are even familiar with the name of the fellow. His nightmare continued on when Jay Bruce stung a base hit directly at phenom Gregory Polanco in right field. Rather than holding up Santiago to have the bases loaded with nobody out for All-Star Devin Mesoraco, Smith challenged the arm of the Pirates’ new shiny toy. On one hop, Polanco delivered a seed right into the glove of Martin who tagged out Santiago.
Due to the micro-management of the eighth inning in which three pitchers got three outs, J.J. Hoover was once again stretched out for a second inning of work. The scapegoat for when things go awry this year, Hoover threw a first pitch curveball to McCutchen, but guessing along with the reliever, McCutchen annihilated it into the stands to put Pittsburgh ahead 6-5.
Both Zack Cozart and Kristopher Negron narrowly missed tying the game in the 11th with solo shots, but the game would end with McCutchen (who else?) squeezing a line drive off the bat of Hamilton in his glove. Sometimes great players just win games.
The series is on the line Sunday as the classic matchup between Francisco Liriano and Johnny Cueto takes place once again. With the Milwaukee Brewers completely self-destructing, both teams are now looking up at the St. Louis Cardinals as well. The first pitch will get the game underway at 1:10 p.m. as both clubs look to end the mythical first half on a strong note.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds